Hi Anna, congratulations on the publication of your novel, The Chimes! Thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper and becoming the latest author to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.
What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Since I imagine the bookshop to be run by a woman and her large brood of variously rebellious offspring, I’d probably go with the predictable but classic ‘X___ & Daughters’ formula. I’m not sure what the family name is, but no doubt something suitably bookish and antiquarian.
Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
For purely selfish reasons, it would be located within walking distance of my home. There’s a wonderful spot at the end of my road in Wellington, where an old wide-windowed villa sits on the corner and looks out over the rather austere and wind-battered Rimutaka ranges. It’s the perfect place for a café, an even better one for a bookshop.
Would your bookshop have any special features?
There would be a small tea room within, with excellent tea and cake. It’s easy to find a good coffee in this country, but I think we need to focus on our tea game.
What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
Hmm, well it would probably have the best view in the world, and definitely the best tea.
What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I’d keep them all. One of the nicest things about the best bookshops is the carefully haphazard way that books of different genres and habits can rub shoulders. It’s what allows you to stumble across that fascinating biography of the Mitfords when really you needed to buy a recipe book for your sister-in-law.
Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
There would be the usual assorted tables of the prettiest and most talked-about books, as well as a rotating showcase of staff favourites – the current darlings of all those opinionated daughters. I think there would probably be a permanent display of poetry. They’re so awfully slim, those volumes, and tend to languish in spine-out display. They need all the help they can get, and we all need more poetry in our lives.
If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
It’s going to be Elena Ferrante, okay? Everyone will be issued with blindfolds, they’ll render up their phones and tablets and recording devices, they’ll sit mute and anonymous and, after a long delay, she’ll come in. The atmosphere will crisp and charge as she enters, which is how we’ll know we’re in the presence of genius. There will be a reading, in Italian, translated by a similarly blindfolded translator. No questions. No comments. Then everybody leaves.
A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel, The Chimes and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
I’d be absolutely hopeless in this situation! I find the two things – ie writing something, and doing my best to sell it to readers – so different and so difficult to reconcile. I think the most honest thing I could say (which I do hope is what will let the book connect with readers) is that I loved writing it. The process was difficult, indeed hugely frustrating often, but all the time I felt propelled by this electric and unreasonable love for the world and its characters. In the end, that rationale is probably not enough to convince a sensible customer, but to me it really felt like the primary qualification for offering it to the world.
What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Chocolate. Always chocolate.
You can buy The Chimes from your favourite bookshop.